West Virginia state government is a frequent target of criticism because, well, it’s the government. It is, by nature, inefficient and bureaucratic. Additionally, politicians incessantly overpromise about what the government will do for people, which inevitably leads to disappointment.
West Virginia has had two recent examples of incompetence.
As MetroNews’ Brad McElhinny reported, back in 1999 the West Virginia Water Development Authority loaned $3 million to the Regional Development Authority of Charleston-Kanawha County to finance the purchase of the Ticketmaster building in the Northgate Business Park.
The property developers—Corotoman, Inc. of Charleston and its president, John Wellford—were supposed to collect rent and use that money to pay back the loan and Wellford would eventually own the building.
However, the Justice administration revealed last week that over the years Wellford missed 79 payments totaling $1.5 million. Ticketmaster paid the rent, but the state never got its money. The administration is now trying to collect.
Earlier this summer, the West Virginia Auditor’s Office determined that the State Department of Health and Human Resources paid almost $1 million in rent for office space at the Middletown Mall in Fairmont, even after DHHR had moved out. The $30,000 a month rent payments were made for three years before the Auditor’s office discovered the error.
Credit the office of auditor J.B. McCuskey and West Virginia Water Development Authority executive director Marie Prezioso—who took over just last year—with rooting out the waste, but the stories are stark reminders of what can happen when state government is careless with other people’s money.
Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office recently announced that his administration and all 55 county clerks have successfully removed “more than 100,000 deceased, duplicate, outdated and convicted felon voter registrations from the county voter files.”
This has been an 18-month undertaking and it was long overdue. In many counties, more than 10 percent of the names on the voter rolls should not have been there. Calhoun County canceled nearly 25 percent of its voter registration rolls.
That is good work by the county clerks and the Secretary of State’s Office who used technology and partnerships with other states to identify duplicate and outdated registrations.
State government will never be as efficient as the private sector because there is no competition. The ongoing tug-of-war in the private sector maximizes resources, while government monopolies have no motivation to be resourceful. That’s how the state ends up paying rent for space it does not use and failing to collect rent for years.
However, government is made up of people and those who take their jobs seriously and view themselves as public servants can—and do—still make a difference.